Microsoft’s new (well, newly labeled, anyway) search engine, Bing, went live last week. I’ve been playing with it a few days and find it to be a very respectable search offering. This thing won’t be toppling Google anytime soon, but there are things about it worth noting that should push Google to begin improving their own offering.
Comparison – Results
There’s a great web site that runs Bing and Google side by side. It’s called Bingle, and it makes for quick results comparisons between the two. You enter the search term once, and it opens a split panel screen with both engines available for scrolling:
I’ve found Google to have more overall results, but it includes more “garbage” than Bing in general. For example, see above that the very first link is for the Canon SD870. That’s not even the model I was searching for, yet Google lists it first.
Google also makes no attempt to categorize results for you; it’s just a (seemingly) never-ending list of links. By contrast, Bing’s sidebar on the left can come in handy. For example, it lists the sd870 as a “related search”.
Bing can take this sidebar approach to very helpful levels. For example, see the searches below for “Prius”:
Bing’s sidebar lists quick links for finding Problems, Reviews, Dealers, Videos, etc. Further, the scrolling list of results is categorized in the same manner as the links. You’ll get a few of one category, then a few for the next, and so on. The idea being that most people find what they want in the first few links anyway. Compared to Bing’s presentation of results, Google’s Lord of the Flies approach is ungainly by comparison.
Further, Bing provides a nice popup that tells you more about the site when you hover over the left edge of the link. You get details without having to load it, which should cut down on “bad” links. Here’s the popup when hovering over the Prius Edmonds link:
Some will argue that Google still “wins” the search because it returned 17.5M results to Bing’s 2M, but I’m not buying it. This can’t be a simple numbers game when the numbers get this high. You can’t possibly go through so many links, especially since Google doesn’t even attempt to break them down. At some point one has to question whether 2M results with convenient subsets of the data and site popups is better than 17.5M you’re essentially left to sift through on your own. The more you get used to it, the more you’ll want the former.
Comparison – Image Search
I also like the way Bing presents images better than Google:
Note that the sidebar gives you more choices of image options than Google’s top options. Also note that the thumbnails can be one of three sizes (shown is the smallest) to see more at a time.
I also like the fact that the images are presented cleanly, with no distracting text, etc. which I don’t need for an initial review of the images. However, once I see an image I like, I need only hover the cursor over it and up pops the relevant information:
Further, if I want the display to be more Google-like, there is a forth image size option that does so, shown here:
Finally, Bing does not have you go back and forth through pages as Google does. Rather, you simply scroll through them, and it ads more as you scroll down. I like this a lot.
Sure, Bing has a way to go to beat Google — if only in the mindset of those who don’t think Google could be improved upon. While the results are good for restaurants, consumer goods, etc., they seem a little spartan for less consumer-related stuff. Then again, as a “decision-engine” it was wise to start more with consumer goods anyway. However, Yahoo! might want to be concerned. With this under their belt, Microsoft has less reason to talk to Yahoo! now.
I think Bing is an impressive offering, and have already bookmarked it for frequent use. I also think Google should get working on a sidebar — or something similar — of their own.